Jan 19, 2008

Korhely Soup

I like pickled things. In Egnlish this Hungarian soup is alternately called Souse's Soup, because of the the the flavor, or Night Owl Soup, because of the legend: supposedly it is to be eaten after a long night of carousing to ward off hangover. In my opinion both translations are awkward. Korhely is an archaic, folksy word to describe a rakish drunkard.

This is a pretty rustic dish, and I don't believe I had it once growing up, so have no family recipe, not that I have many of those anyway. In cookbooks and online I found many different versions from which I put together my version to a very satisfying result.

  • 1 jar of sauerkraut, plus the pickling juice of a second jar
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 spicy sausage (if possible Debreceni)
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika (Hungarian)
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 2-3 slices of bacon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

Soak the ham hock changing the water several times for at least for 30 minutes. Boil it till tender. Drain, remove meat from bone and chop into bite size pieces.

In frying pan over low heat slowly render the fat from the bacon. Remove the slices and in the drippings sauté the onion till translucent. Pull off the heat and add paprika, stir, add 2-3 tbs water, stir again, then transfer to big cooking pot.*

Add sauerkraut and pickling liquid. Add ham hock pieces and bay leaf. Leave it on stove over medium heat.

Meanwhile prepare roux: Over medium-low heat combine oil and flour. Stir continuously till it turns golden brown. Pull off heat, and slowly, in small increments at first add several ladles of the soup liquid, stir tilll smooth. Transfer into big pot, mix in well. Add sausage. Season with pepper.

Bring to boil, then turn heat down and cook for 10-15 minutes.

At this point you can add sour cream, heat it together and serve. However it is one of those dishes that taste even better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, and that goes better without the sour cream in it. I personally like adding the sour cream to the individual serving pots, but of course that cools down the soup.

The soup has a intensely sour taste with bites of porky goodness. It should be served with thick slices of hard crust bread.

*It's important to pull the the frying pan off the heat first, before adding the paprika, otherwise the it could burn and turn bitter.

Possible substitutions and omissions

Ham hock could be replaced by other, similar smoked pork parts, or omitted altogether.
Instead of bacon drippings, butter or vegetable oil could be used, at the cost of some flavor.
Those averse to spicy sausage can substitute hot dogs, though this is not something I encourage.
To tone down the sourness ca 2 cups of water can be used instead of the liquid from the second jar of sauerkraut.
To think about it, this dish could be turned kosher or even vegetarian without completely losing its character, but this is also not something I'd encourage.

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